Let us pray, peace be with us:

"The Cross that has been the cause of our good and by which our mortal humanity was set free,
O Lord, be for us a strong fortress. And by this Cross, we shall overcome the wicked one and All his devices."

(Syro-Malabar Qurbana)


“The Truth will make you free”

Vol. 18, No. 1                                         New Delhi                         March, 2008  

A Brief Study of the Karozutha in the Holy Qurbana


The Karozutha or Common Prayer of the Church, called also as Prayer of the Faithful  comes after the Gospel.  The Karozutha (Litany) form of prayer developed in the Church from 3 – 4 centuries, though similar prayers existed long before that.  The word karozutha means proclamation.  In the karozutha God is confessed and proclaimed as he has revealed to us, and the needs of the Church are placed before him.  The deacon announces the supplications and petitions and the people respond, “Lord, have mercy”.  In order to appreciate and recite properly the karozutha of the Syro-Malabar Church it is important to understand the early formulation of the karozutha and its significance as part of the liturgical heritage of the Church.  Othrwise these prayers might be omitted partially or completely and replaced by superficial and inappropriate petitions, as it is happening today in our Churches.


The Apostolic Constitutions (Apostolic Constitutions of the Holy Apostles according to Clement) was compiled during the second half of the fourth century, mostly from existing rituals.  It gives different sets of karozuthas for the catechumens, for penitents who are not allowed to take part in the Eucharist, and for other faithful.  When the number of catechumens / penitents became insignificant, it seems, the separate sets of supplications were left out and some of them incorporated in a common karozutha.  St Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165 A.D.), Hippolitus of Rome (ca. 170-206), Serapion of Jerusalem (353-360) and other early writers of the church speak of such prayers and petitions.  As regards the East Syriac Church, Narsai (390-502), Gabriel Qatraya (6-7 centuries), etc. mention these karozutha prayers.  It was a common practice in all the Churches by the fourth century.


Apostolic Constitutions Book II, 57, 14 gives the following instruction: “After this (reading of the Scriptures) let all rise up with one consent and, looking towards the east, after the departure of the catechumens and penitents, pray to God who ascended up to the heaven of heavens, towards the east….”


AC II, 57, 18-19 continue:  “After this, let the deacon pray for the whole Church, for the whole world, and for the several parts of it, and for (abundance of) fruits (of the earth) for the priests and the rulers, for the bishop, for the king, and for universal peace.  19. Then let the bishop, praying for peace upon the people, bless them in these words…..”


St. Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, gives the following instruction concerning public or liturgical prayers “First of all then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and for all in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”  (I Timothy, 2; 1-2).  Therefore, the karozutha prayers are based on apostolic traditions.


For a deeper understanding of the origin of karozutha prayers we have to go back to Judaic sources.  The Synagogue Service concluded with a formulary of similar blessings and prayers.  They are known as Berakot Shermoneh Esereh,  “ Eighteen Blessings “, or simply the Thephilla, “prayer”, because they are considered as prayers par excellence.  They comprise three introductory blessings, which are followed by twelve prayers of petition (these also end with blessings) and three final blessings.  It is important to note that supplications were combined with blessings (praises).  The same practice was followed by the Church in her official prayers.


Comparing the Berakoth with the karozutha in the Qurbana, we see that several of the themes are common, prayers for, a) benevolent seasons of the year with abundant fruits; b) for the authorities – judges, counselors; c) repentance and pardon of sins; d) that God in his mercy accept the prayers; e) peace in the land and among the people.


Shermoneh Esreh and the Lord’s Prayer.


In the Synagogue Service, before the chanting of the blessings, it was the custom to spend a period of silent individual prayers, inspired by the familiar themes of the public prayers.  Louis Bouyer writes: “The disciples’ request of Jesus “to teach them to pray” seems precisely to be aimed at this personal prayer, and the Lord’s  Prayer appears to constitute its synthetic formulation” (Louis Bouyer, Eucharist, London, 1968, p. 71).




First part of the Lord’s Prayer and Qaddish Prayer


As regards the first part of the Lord’s Prayer there was the influence of the Qaddish Prayer, a prayer of praise, used at the beginning of the reading of the Scriptures in the Synagogue Service, quoted below:


“Magnified and sanctified be his great name, Amen.  In the world which he had created according to his will.  And may he establish his kingdom during your life and during your days and during the life of all the house of Israel, even speedily and at a near time.  Amen.”  Louis Bouyer writes on this point:  It is evident that it is the direct source of the first part of the Lord’s Prayer.”  (Louis Bouyer, Ibid. p. 61).


The Order of Qurbana restored by the Holy See and introduced in Malabar in 1962 gives two sets of karozuthas, after the Gospel.  Some of the petitions that were in use at that time have been left out.  The first karozutha contains two parts (groups), the first group with seven petitions; the second group with six supplications which are supplications of a general nature.  Karozutha II is known as the Angel of Peace Prayer and begins with the prayer to send the Angel of Peace.  We shall examine each of these prayers.


The first karozutha begins with the call of the deacon to stand up and pray: 1) Let us all stand up with (on Sundays and Feast days) joy and exultation – (on ferial days) with repentance and earnestness – and let us pray saying: Our lord, have mercy on us.   The people respond: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord,’ (Syriac, “Maran esraham alyne” – “Our Lord, have mercy on us”.  The response is the words found in the Gospels, the entreaty of the ten lepers to Jesus, (Lk. 17: 13), of the two blind men (Mt. 20:30) and of the Canaanite woman (Mt. 15:22).


The distinction between Sundays is significant, Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord, which fills us with the spirit of joy; ferial days are different, and we are exhorted to pray in a spirit of repentance.


2) Father of mercies and God of all consolation we beseech You: R.

(2 Cor. I: 3, “Blessed be God, ….the Father of mercies and the God of all consolations”.)

3) Our Saviour, the procurer of our salvation and the provider of all things. R.

(Eph. 2:4, “God who is rich in mercy out of the great love…saved us”).

4) For the peace, harmony and stability of the whole world and of all Churches we beseech you; R.

5) For our country and for all countries and for the faithful that dwell therein we…R.

6) For a temperate climate for a good harvest and an abundance of fruits, and for the prosperity of the whole world, we…R.

7) For the health of our Holy Father Pope (N) Head of entire Church of Christ and Our Lord Bishop (or Archbishop) and for all their fellow-ministers we....R.


Second Part of karozutha I

8) Compassionate God, who governs all things with tender mercy, we….R.

9) You are rich in mercy, and plentiful in goodness; we…R.

10) You are by nature good, and the bestower of all good things, we….R

11) You are glorified in heaven and worshipped on earth; we…R

12) You are by nature immortal, and dwell in light effulgent; we…R

(I Tim. 6: 16. “It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light,….)

13) Save us all, O Christ, through your grace; cause to abound in us your peace and tranquility, and have mercy on us. R


                          Karozutha II The Angel of Peace (B’bautha)


There are six petitions in this karozutha.

1)  For an angel of peace and mercy, with supplication and entreaty we ask:

R. From Thee, O Lord.

2) By day and night, all through our life for lasting peace, for the Church, and a life without sins, we ask: R.

3) For concord and charity, which is the bond of perfection by the efficiency of the Holy Spirit, we ask: R

( Col. 3:14, Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body).

4) For remission of sins, and all that enhances our life and please your divinity we ask: R.

5) For the mercy of the Lord and his kindness, always and constantly, we ask: R.

6) Let us commend ourselves and each one of us to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

R. To You, O Lord our God we commend.


Qatraya writes about the conclusion of the “Angel of Peace”.  The deacon concludes with the prayer:  “Let us offer (commend) ourselves and each one of us to the Father and to the son and the Holy Spirit”.


The Angel of Peace Prayer is similar to Byzantine ektene and in the Liturgy of  St. James.


A dominant theme that recurs in the karozuthas is the prayer for peace.  Peace of mind and heart or peace with oneself, and peace with one another is a prerequisite for peace with God.  Peace is the greatest gift of Jesus to humanity.  “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but  righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy spirit” (Rom. 14: 17).  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7).


             Karozutha III, “nsalle onevve”


There is a longer karozutha, “The great karozutha”, which is not given in the restored Qurbana text.  But it is given in the Chaldean thaksa, and was said in the Syro-Malabar Raza prior to the restoration in 1962.  It consists of 13 supplications, and each begins with.  “Let us pray earnestly….”  This karozutha is said before the Angel of Peace Prayer (b’bauta).


The same supplications are found in the Apostolic Constitutions, which signify the great antiquity of the karozutha.  Considering the theological richness and the venerable antiquity, it is to be observed, that its omission is a loss for the liturgy of the Church.  It could have been retained and said at least in the Raza and on important feast days.  Anyhow, it is satisfying that the great karozutha finds a place in the Divine Office for the  period of Great Fast (Lent).


The petitions in the karozuthas are rather for spiritual blessings than for earthly benefits; material goods are not the priority.


It is specially to be noted that the supplications and petitions of the Karozuthas of the East Syriac (Syro-Malabar) Church are identical or similar to those found in the
Apostolic Constitutions of the Holy Apostles.  Fr. Jammo gives a parallel study.  (Cf. Jammo, La Stgructure Messe Chalde’enne, Rome, 1978, pp. 141-147).


To summarize, in the karozuthas, the common prayer of the Church, we confess God, his goodness and mercy, his providence, as it has been revealed to us in the scriptures; they are of apostolic origin; part of the venerable tradition and heritage of the Church.  This realization should compel us to recite them in the liturgy with devotion, and not to omit or replace them with spontaneous and superficial, or prayers for individual benefits.


In 1968, the Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church printed a new Order of the Qurbana and sent to the Holy See for approval.  At that time there were seven bishops in our Church.  All had agreed on the text and they wanted to introduce it immediately.  Therefore, the Holy See granted temporary permission to use the text, without examining the contents.


At the instance of the Oriental Congregation another text of the Qurbana was prepared and submitted to the Holy See for approval in 1981.  This text was more or less on the same lines as that of 1968.  The Holy See made a detailed study of the text and sent its observations to the bishops in 1983.


With regard to the Karozutha, the communication from Rome said “the Karozutha may not be replaced by other formulae.  But other petitions for the special occasions, formulated in the karozutha style may be added following the initial fixed petitions which expresses the permanent general initiations of the whole church and are set and irreplaceable” (no. 24).


The final strophe beginning with “save us all” (salva nos) which was left out the Oriental Congregation makes this observation:  “The final ‘salva nos’universal conclusion to this litany in the East should be restored to its proper Christological form”.


Karozutha II was completely left out in the Thaksa on which the Congregation observes:  “Karozutha II may not be omitted.  It is the ‘Angel of Peace’ litany, of great antiquity, common to most Eastern traditions, and an essential part of the Syro-Malabar preces after readings”.


The general directions in the Thaksa had made provisions for “spontaneous prayers” with the karozutha and the Congregation remarks: “Spontaneous prayers are not to be admitted.  This western experiment has opened the way to mediocrity and banality.  Very few people have the talent…Furthermore, in public, ritual worship, as distinct from private prayer, there is little room for spontaneity of composition and form…”


The karozutha remained a matter of contention among the bishops, some of them wanted to reduce the petitions to the minimum.  When the Order of Qurbana in Solemn and Simple forms was finalized, particular norms were laid down.  The Oriental Congregation in its Directives dated April 3, 1989 said:  “Karozutha II may be printed in small type as optional, except for the final petition and its response (Let us commend….To you, O Lord) which are never omitted.


In a Decree dated 3 April, 1989 (Modifications) making a clarification on Karozutha I, the congregation gave the following directive: “The petitions of the first Karozutha after the Gospel may be multiplied or abbreviated.  But petition 1-7 and the final petition (Save us all, O Christ….Have mercy on us, O Lord) must be retained.  The concession to abbreviate and/or provide options in the litany is not meant to destroy the basic structure of the intercessions or prayers of the faithful which must always begin with the general petitions for the basic needs of the Church and humanity.”


Following Vatican II the Holy See gave some General Instructions on the Roman Missal.  The general principle regarding the Prayer of the Faithful mentioned in article n. 45 is true also in our regard: “In the Prayer of the Faithful (General Intercessions or Bidding Prayer) the people exercise their priestly function by praying for all mankind”.


It points out the importance and significance of the Karozutha.  The faithful are by making the intercessions for the Church and humanity as a whole, exercising their priestly function common to all the baptized.  This is to be kept in mind while mutilating the intercessions or adding new prayers to the official karozutha.


Prayers for  the Seasons in the Karozutha


It is stated above in the Instructions of the Congregation that “other petitions for the special occasions, formulated in the karozutha style may be added”.  What is meant by special occasions ? Does it mean Variable Prayers for the Seasons ? the General Instruction on the Roman Missal quoted above (n. 46) concerning The Prayer of the Faithful gives a clarification of “special occasions” regarding the Roman Rite, which is also relevant for our Rite.  No. 46 adds: “However, on special occasions such as in Masses conjoined with Confirmations, Weddings, or Funerals, the list of intentions might be concerned more explicitly with the particular occasion” (n. 46).


To insert prayers for the Seasons in the Karozutha after the Gospel destroys the structure of the Qurbana and the character of the Karozutha for two reasons, According to the structure of the Qurbana, 1) the Karozutha (as the Prayer of the Faithful) is the common prayer of the Church, for general need of the Church and humanity; 2) Variable Prayers for the Seasons are assigned to other moments in the Qurbana.


Having eliminated Karozutha I all the intercessions except 1-7, and the final petition, and in Karozutha II all the petitions except the concluding one, in the preoccupation to shorten the time of the Qurbana, it is strange to make a turn around adding Prayers for the Seasons in their place.  In that case the right thing would be to recite Karozutha I and Karozutha II, “Angel of Peace Prayer” in their integral form without any deletion.  The sacredness of the liturgy requires that while making changes or additions in any part of the liturgy, a thorough study of the part in question is made, the existing form and the need for any change from all aspects, theological, biblical, liturgical and historical.


We quote a few lines in this connection, from the Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of CCEO, published by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in 1996, with the approval of the Holy Father:  “In modifying ancient liturgical, it must be determined if the element to be introduced is coherent with contextual meaning in which it is placed….In addition it must be ensured, that it is not already present, perhaps in another form, in a different moment of the celebration or in another part of the liturgical corpus of that Church” (n. 20).  To make unsound and unnecessary changes in the liturgy, without proper study, will be an injustice to the Church.


                                                                     (Bishop Mar Abraham D. Mattam)